An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Prevent red tide? Start with more wetlands, experts say

Three Democratic federal lawmakers will work toward increasing water quality monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico and creating more wetlands to clean water flowing into the Gulf and other waterways.

U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson crafted a preliminary action plan Wednesday after meeting with local scientists and business leaders about the ongoing impacts of red tide.

“Even though the tourism numbers have been up … boy, this could really set us back unless we work together to address the red tide,” Castor said during a roundtable discussion in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

Three scientists with varying areas of expertise all agreed: Red tide is a naturally occurring environmental phenomenon, but large blooms are likely fueled by warmer Gulf temperatures as the result of climate change and, possibly, by nutrient runoff from agriculture.

Sarasota County BMPs to be employed proactively

News Image

Sarasota County’s Stormwater Division crews are now taking a comprehensive, systematic approach consistent with industry standards in performing preventative maintenance. This approach is a departure from past practices of a reactive, complaint-driven process after a problem has occurred. This approach is identified as a Best Management Practice (BMP) for stormwater system maintenance. This approach enhances customer satisfaction, lowers long-term expenses and improves the drainage system’s overall performance.

The basic premise of the BMP is: Start preventative flood system maintenance at the downstream end of a system; clean and make functional the smallest constrictions in the conveyance system to improve and maintain consistent flows, typically driveway pipes; combine work efforts with any requests for service where the service is warranted, thus reducing crew travel time and mobilization costs; do any additional aesthetic improvements after the primary objectives are completed.

North Port commissioners urge residents to curb year-round fertilizer use

SARASOTA COUNTY — North Port city commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to encourage residents to curb use of fertilizer year-round — joining Venice, which adopted a similar voluntary ban earlier this year.

City Commissioner Jill Luke worked on the resolution, along with city stormwater management staff.

And similar to a resolution that was passed in Venice, the city of North Port is only urging residents to take steps to curb fertilizer use, in hopes of reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in stormwater runoff, and, in turn, avoiding feeding the red tide algae in the Gulf of Mexico.

North Port stormwater manager Elizabeth Wong said the city is planning educational outreach for a variety of users.

Holmes Beach commission pushes for fix to polluted Spring Lake

Holmes Beach commissioners want to remediate the highly toxic Spring Lake.

But whether the water body between 68th and 70th streets should return to fresh water origins or a subsequently transformed saltwater ecosystem will be studied next.

At an Oct. 9 work session, city engineer Lynn Burnett called the ammonia levels “highly toxic” and agreed with a Sept. 5 report from city consultant Aquatic Systems Lake & Wetland Services of Pompano to reclaim a fresh water ecosystem.

But after a neighbor spoke of the lake’s past saltwater success, Burnett called for a second study from the consultant.

Burnett had first agreed with ASLWS findings and recommended the city dredge “the junk off the bottom,” add aeration, monitor and let a fresh water lake return to “function and thrive.”

Judge dismisses Big Pass lawsuit

At an Oct. 4 Siesta Key Association meeting, board member and Siesta resident Catherine Luckner was optimistic about the group’s latest legal challenge contesting the city’s plans to dredge Big Pass.

Although the city had filed a motion to dismiss the case, Luckner believed the association made a compelling argument that the county needed to review the Lido Key renourishment project before it could move forward. She was confident the city’s motion would be unsuccessful and a circuit court hearing would go forward.

“I believe that we will have the right to be heard,” Luckner said. “I have no reason not to think that.”

Eight days later, a judge granted the city’s motion, dismissing the Siesta Key Association’s challenge of the dredging.

On Friday, 12th Circuit Court Judge Andrea McHugh ruled the Siesta Key Association and co-plaintiff David Patton failed to make a case for legal action. The challenge argued the project failed to comply with the city and county comprehensive plans and the state Community Planning Act.

'No swim' advisories lifted for Nokomis, Manasota Key beaches

The "No Swim" advisories issued Wednesday, Oct. 10, for Nokomis Beach and Manasota Key Beach have been lifted.

Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County officials received testing results today that were at a satisfactory level meeting both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state recreational water standards.

Residents and visitors may return to swimming and other water sports at this beach site. The "no swim" advisory signage will be removed.

There are no beach advisories in place in Sarasota County at this time.

South Venice Community Cleanup

It's time to clean out the garage and gather discarded household items, appliances, junk, tree trimmings and other garbage as Sarasota County will hold a free community cleanup in the South Venice area from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 20.

Dumpsters will be available at the following locations:

  • South Venice Community Center, 720 Alligator Drive.
  • South Venice Ferry Landing, 2000 block of Lemon Bay Drive.
  • Seaboard Drive, near Orange Street.

Canal Watch Group launched in North Port

The City in cooperation with citizens of North Port have recognized the need to form a Canal Watch Group. The Canal Watch Group is open to anyone that wishes to conduct observations on any stretch of canal. Members will become ambassadors for our canals and environmental stewards for conserving North Port’s natural resources.

The canal system in North Port serves as the city’s drinking water source and must be protected from pollution. One major goal of the Canal Watch Group is to educate the public on how to minimize pollutants in our water resources through communication within our communities and neighborhoods. Another goal is to observe the canals for any illicit discharge or general unhealthiness. Examples of concern include excessive fertilizing or fertilizing during prohibited wet months. Concerns also include oil sheen, illegal dumping, improper disposal of plant and animal waste, algae blooms, excessive turbidity, dead fish and other affected wildlife. To help protect our water quality, North Port City Commission unanimously approved a resolution on October 9, 2018, to encourage the voluntary non-use of fertilizer year-around.

No-swim advisories lifted at several Sarasota Co. beaches

No-swim advisories have been lifted for several Sarasota County beaches after tests showed acceptable levels of enterococcus bacteria.

The advisories for Longboat Key Beach, North Lido Beach, Lido Casino Beach, South Lido Beach, Siesta Key Beach, Turtle Beach, North Jetty Beach, Service Club Beach, Venice Fishing Pier Beach, Brohard Park Beach and Casperson Beach have been lifted.

Red tide levels lower in Manatee, Sarasota after Hurricane Michael churns up the Gulf

MANATEE - Just days after Hurricane Michael stormed through the Gulf of Mexico, red tide might be on its way out of the area, according to the latest update from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Five of the nine samples taken in Manatee County waters reported that the Karenia brevis algae bloom was not present. The other four samples showed background, very low or low traces of red tide.

According to FWC, those results account for a 5 to 25 percent decrease.

Shoreline Shindig at Bradenton Riverwalk highlights Manatee’s oyster restoration efforts

BRADENTON - If you can’t eat ‘em, grow ‘em.

That was the name of the game at the Shoreline Shindig hosted along the Bradenton Riverwalk on Saturday afternoon. Hundreds gathered in the park to learn about nature’s automatic water filter.

The event was put on by Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START), which has sponsored a renewed effort to foster oyster growth in Manatee County. Mary Anne Bowie, the organization’s program manager, said the oysters in Manatee River aren’t fit for eating, but they still provide significant contributions to water quality.

The Shoreline Shindig put 20 of START’s local partners in one place to educate the public about how oyster restoration reaches into every corner of the community.

In a step forward for Everglades restoration, U.S. Senate approves reservoir plan

A project intended to help address blue-green algae outbreaks took a major step forward Wednesday as the U.S. Senate passed a bill that includes a proposal for an Everglades water storage reservoir.

Senators approved the bill, which includes many other water-related projects nationwide, by a margin of 99-1.

The reservoir would be built south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce the need for water discharges east and west. The lake water contains high levels of nutrients like phosophorus and nitrogren, which fuels algae blooms in inland waterways and coastal areas, including the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

North Port commissioners urge residents to curb year-round fertilizer use

North Port city commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to encourage residents to curb use of fertilizer year-round — joining Venice, which adopted a similar voluntary ban earlier this year.

City Commissioner Jill Luke worked on the resolution, along with city stormwater management staff.

And similar to a resolution that was passed in Venice, the city of North Port is only urging residents to take steps to curb fertilizer use, in hopes of reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in stormwater runoff, and, in turn, avoiding feeding the red tide algae in the Gulf of Mexico.

North Port stormwater manager Elizabeth Wong said the city is planning educational outreach for a variety of users.

Higher tides associated with Michael spark erosion concerns in Southwest Florida

Beach managers and government agencies are watching for erosion along Southwest Florida beaches in the wake of powerful Hurricane Michael.

High tides were pushed beyond their normal limits Tuesday and Wednesday and onto some local barrier islands.

"Coastal areas in Lee County began experiencing higher than normal tides on Tuesday as Hurricane Michael passed west of Southwest Florida," Lee County spokesman Tim Engstrom said in an email to The News-Press. As the storm made landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, winds in our area were expected to shift onshore, he said.

No-swim advisories posted for 13 Sarasota Co. beaches

No-swim advisories have been issued for 13 beaches by Sarasota County health officials.

Tests done Monday show the amount of enterococcus bacteria is above acceptable levels at the following beaches:

  • Longboat Key Beach
  • North Lido Beach
  • Lido Casino Beach
  • South Lido Beach
  • Siesta Key Beach
  • Turtle Beach
  • Nokomis Beach
  • North Jetty Beach
  • Service Club Beach
  • Venice Pier Beach
  • Brohard Park Beach
  • Manasota Key Beach
  • Casperson Beach

The beaches remain open, but swimming, wading or other water activities are not recommended.

The advisory will remain in effect until follow-up tests show the levels have returned to acceptable level. However, due to high waters from Hurricane Michael, tests will not be done until seas are 3 feet or less and there is a lower risk for riptides.

The hurricanes and climate-change questions keep coming. Yes, they’re linked.

Scientists are increasingly confident of the links between global warming and hurricanes.

In a warming world, they say, hurricanes will be stronger, for a simple reason: Warmer water provides more energy that feeds them.

Hurricanes and other extreme storms will also be wetter, for a simple reason: Warmer air holds more moisture.

And, storm surges from hurricanes will be worse, for a simple reason that has nothing to do with the storms themselves: Sea levels are rising.

Hurricane Michael causes flooding and erosion in Sarasota

The fury of Hurricane Michael was hundreds of miles away, but Sarasota County felt some of its effects Wednesday.

The city of Sarasota and county government cautioned drivers to avoid floodwaters, closed parks and readied crews to assist in the aftermath of the hurricane that made landfall at 1:45 p.m. near Mexico Beach in the Florida Panhandle with winds measured at about 155 mph.

Sarasota County Emergency Management prepped teams at Station 20, where its fleet services building is located, to leave for the storm-torn area at 5 p.m. The team includes two strikes teams — one made up of five rescuers and a leader and the second team of three fire engines and a leader.

The city of Venice closed North Jetty Park to safeguard visitors from high tide and swells from 2 to 4 feet that broke across the deck of the jetty.

Punta Gorda's Harbor Heights pier to be demolished, reconstructed beginning Oct. 15

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – The preparation for the demolition and reconstruction of the pier located at 27420 Voyageur Drive, Punta Gorda, will begin Oct. 15, 2018. The estimated time of completion is February 2019. The replacement is due to long-term deterioration and structural failure. The park will remain open during construction. Please use caution in the construction area.

For information, contact Brenda Sisk at 941-833-3824 or

Red tide and fertilizer impact the topic of Venice City Council discussions

VENICE — Red tide and ways city officials can reduce the impact of fertilizer runoff in the Gulf of Mexico will dominate discussion in several items on tap Tuesday with the Venice City Council.

Venice Mayor John Holic has three separate discussion topics posted on the agenda — a resolution of the Southwest Regional Planning Council regarding biosolids, a direction to staff to get a professional opinion on not removing dead marine life from the beach, and a discussion of Sarasota County’s beach cleanup policy.

Meanwhile Vice Mayor Bob Daniels placed the Florida Friendly Yards program on the agenda for discussion.

Mote leader shares red tide science at Capitol Hill briefing

Mote Marine Laboratory’s leader shared red tide science to inform national policymakers yesterday, Sept. 27, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby served as a panelist during a red tide briefing at the Capitol to provide an overview of Florida red tide, discuss Mote’s current rapid response efforts to the ongoing bloom, and present a vision for the future with the exploration of new mitigation strategies and creation of an independent, Florida-based Marine and Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Center.

Ocean Conservancy and Citizens’ Climate Lobby hosted the briefing, with honorary hosts U.S. senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.

Siesta Key group planning to sue the feds over Lido Beach renourishment project

SIESTA KEY — A citizens group fiercely opposed to a dredging project to renourish critically eroded Lido Beach has notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of its intent to sue the federal agency for allegedly breaking the law by failing to conduct a key study to examine the project’s potentially devastating effects to Siesta Key.

Save Our Siesta Sands 2 on Friday formally provided the federal agency a required 60-day notice of its intent to sue after the Corps ignored a request from the group to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement to address economic and environmental concerns about the plan to dredge Big Pass and rebuild Lido Beach. The notice initiates a two-month period in which the Corps can remedy the issue raised by the group or face litigation if it refuses.

Before signing off on the project, the federal agency conducted a Final Environmental Assessment, which is not as comprehensive as an Environmental Impact Statement, according to the group’s St. Augustine-based land-use and environmental attorney Jane West. The group cited concerns about the impact of taking sand from nearby sources, or “borrow areas,” that it says are needed to protect Siesta Key.

“The Environmental Assessment failed to analyze the economic impacts of the dredging and also wholly failed to even consider red tide issues,” West said in an email to the Herald-Tribune. If the Corps “conducts an EIS that more comprehensively considers other borrow areas as alternatives, and opts for a borrow area that doesn’t impact Big Pass Shoal, then yes, Save Our Siesta Sands 2 would refrain from pursuing litigation.”

Big plans for when red tide vanishes in Sarasota-Manatee

Business and tourism groups have cash on hand and projects ready to go once the toxic algae dissipates.

As red tide lingers on in the Gulf, local and state officials have prepared plans to help businesses and habitats in the area recover. They say they’re ready for action — but are stuck waiting for red tide to dissipate before they can move away from quick-fix solutions and offer long-term help.

Kelly Clark, director of communications at the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her organization is ready to launch an ad campaign as soon as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says red tide has dispersed. In the meantime, the bureau has been running a campaign to drive people living on the mainland to visit Anna Maria Island and take advantage of restaurant deals, she said.

“For the island, tourism is their bread and butter,” Clark said. “With not a lot of tourism coming, we’re trying to do the best we can to keep an influx people going in and creating a bit of an economic impact in the area.”

Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing organization, has set up a $500,000 program to help local tourism development boards like Clark’s bureau. Erin Duggan, vice president of Visit Sarasota County, said they have already received a $50,000 grant from the fund and have applied for more.

Guest editorial: Testing the politics of red tide science

So is politics.

Science combined with politics is really hard.

Ask Michael Crosby, the chief executive officer of Sarasota-based Mote Marine Laboratory, who has been swept up in the politics of red tide science.

Red tides, including the episode that has ravaged the Southwest Florida coast this summer and threatens to linger, have long been the subject of study by Mote and other science-based organizations.

This isn’t the first time harmful algal blooms have devastated marine life, decimated the tourist-based economy and caused respiratory ailments among residents and visitors. The 2005-06 and 1994-96 events, for example, had similar impacts.

But the current event, which has dissipated but not disappeared, has created an unprecedented level of public outrage and political reaction for at least four powerful reasons: the intensity of the outbreak and its impacts on wildlife and businesses; the popularity of social media, which is spreading images of tons of fish washed up onshore, as well as fact and fiction; dramatic photographs of bright, blue-green freshwater algae making their way from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico; an election year that features closely fought, high-profile campaigns for state and federal offices.

Red tides have put Mote Marine on the defensive in the past, due in part to widely held expectations that the research institute should have found a cure for the harmful algal blooms by now.

Tensions have been exacerbated recently as Gov. Rick Scott, whose commitment to limiting nutrient-level runoff has been questioned, proposed increased funding for research and testing by Mote and other organizations.

Mitigating red tide more than killing algae, researcher says

SARASOTA — Clarissa Anderson, a scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, has a big a job title — not only in characters, but in the magnitude of her responsibility.

She is the executive director of Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System, SCCOOS, whose primary goal is to give local decision-makers in California the data they need to set better policies and understand the conditions of ocean water effected by harmful algal blooms.

“True mitigation isn’t getting rid of the algae,” Anderson said. “That’s really hard to do in the ocean. You can’t kill one organism without killing others. Our mitigation is focused on early warnings and trying to connect what’s happening in the waters to the fisheries.”

California’s red tide is called Psuedo-nitzchia and it produces neurotoxins called domoic acid. The chemical is lethal to fish, birds and marine mammals, most noticeably California sea lions.

Media statement: FWC Commission expands fishery management measures in response to red tide

At its September meeting in Tallahassee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) directed staff to expand a recent catch-and-release only measure for snook and redfish to include Tampa Bay (including all of Manatee and Hillsborough counties) as well as all of Pinellas and Pasco counties starting Friday, Sept. 28.

The FWC also directed staff to extend these measures through May 10, 2019, in these and other areas previously made catch-and-release for redfish and snook.

Scientists, resource managers share major updates on tackling Florida red tide

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Florida Department of Health (DOH) and Mote Marine Laboratory (Mote) gathered on Monday, Sept. 24, for the State of Florida’s press announcement of a new partnership initiative to address red tide. A related roundtable discussion with scientists and local stakeholder groups shared important updates on Florida’s state-local-private partnership efforts to manage red tide impacts.

Mote — an independent, nonprofit marine science institution based in Sarasota — served as host site for the news conference, highlighting its innovative work in red tide research and response.

During the news conference, FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton announced that Governor Scott was directing a $2.2 million investment to test innovative, red tide mitigation technologies, including specialized clay field experiments and expansion of Mote’s novel mitigation technologies, such as its ozone treatment system. Mote originally patented its ozone system to remove red tide and its toxins from water entering Mote Aquarium, later tested the system with seawater in a 25,000-gallon “mesocosm” pool at Mote’s Sarasota campus to prepare for field tests, and most recently conducted a pilot-scale field test in a dead-end canal in Boca Grande. While data from the pilot test are still being analyzed, it’s clear that the technology merits future testing to determine its effectiveness at commercial scale.

Archaeology lecture series: a prehistoric cemetery in the Gulf of Mexico

Join the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society (CGCAS) in partnership with the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education (AWIARE) for his annual lecture series on the third Thursday of every month, spanning diverse archaeological topics. This evening's speaker will be Dr. Ryan Duggins, the Underwater Archaeology Supervisor within the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research.

An unexpected discovery by a fossil hunter diving a quarter-mile off Manasota Key near Venice, Florida, has led to a groundbreaking archaeological project that could change everything scientists thought they knew about offshore archaeology. Investigations by the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research at the Manasota Key Offshore site (8SO7030) revealed evidence of a prehistoric Native American burial site in what appears to have been a freshwater peat-bottomed pond thousands of years ago. Ongoing archaeological investigation revealed multiple discrete areas containing peat, worked wooden stakes that were used in burial practice, and the remains of multiple individuals. Radiocarbon dating of two stakes dated them to more than 7,200 years old. When this site was in use, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were about 30 feet below their current level. This talk presents results from remote sensing investigations and underwater archaeological documentation while addressing long term management plans for this delicate and unique site.

Measures that would help address Florida's harmful algal blooms remain stalled In Congress

Florida is waiting on Congress to authorize two efforts that could help address algal blooms plaguing the state's coastal and inland waterways.

Congressional authorization expires Sunday for legislation that helps communities cope with harmful algae blooms. The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act enables the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, and an inter-agency task force to do things like monitor algae blooms, research their causes and give grants to communities trying to cope. A lapse in authorization wouldn't eliminate the program, but it would make it less likely that Congress would continue to fund it.

Simultaneously, Florida leaders and environmental groups are calling on the Senate to vote on a bill that includes plans for a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. That reservoir would reduce the need for lake water discharges that contribute to blue-green algae outbreaks.

Deal proposed in Peace River water feud

A potential lengthy and costly legal battle over water withdrawals from the Peace River may be averted if all of the parties accept a proposed compromise.

The board of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority held a closed session with attorney Douglas Manson on Wednesday to discuss the possible settlement.

Patrick Lehman, the authority’s executive director, said he hopes that an agreement can be reached that satisfies all parties – including Polk County, the Polk Regional Water Cooperative and the municipalities of Lakeland, Fort Meade, Wauchula, Bartow and Winter Haven, which sued to block the regional water utility from taking more Peace River water.

“They need options, let’s face it,” Lehman said of Polk’s interest in finding additional water supplies.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, which regulates water resources across a broad area, suggested a way to quench all of the parties’ future thirst that Lehman says takes in the “broader picture.”

Yet it involves making Hillsborough County part of that regional solution.

The Peace River authority supplies drinking water to Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto counties and the city of North Port.

The authority draws water from the Peace River during the rainy season and stores it underground and in two reservoirs to distribute during the dry months.

Currently, the authority’s permits from the water district, commonly known as Swiftmud, allow it to withdraw a maximum 120 million gallons per day from the river. It has contracts to provide up to 34.8 million gallons daily.

Is spraying weeds in Central Florida lakes, contributing to Southwest Florida’s water crisis?

FORT MYERS - Scott Wilson is not a scientist. He’s a pastor and a fisherman with a passion for the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes where he spends most of his time off.

“I’ve grown up on this chain of lakes since I was 4 years old, and I love this part of Florida more than anywhere else,” he said, getting choked up as he tried to get the words out.

Wilson claims since 2012, he’s seen an excessive amount of chemical spraying done near his fish camp.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission does maintenance control throughout Florida to keep populations of invasive plants, or weeds, low.

“Invasive plants degrade and diminish Florida’s conservation lands and waterways. Decaying plants in lakes release nutrients that help algae to grow,” said Carli Segelson, a spokesperson for FWC.

State directs $2.2 million to Mote for red tide research

The state has granted nearly $2.2 million to Mote Marine Laboratory to expand testing and researching of red tide.

An announcement Monday at Mote Marine Laboratory brought experts from Mote, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Department of Health together to discuss the investment. expand testing and researching of red tide.

FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton said the money will allow for innovative research technologies to be tested in the field. expand testing and researching of red tide.

“We’re building on that incredible productivity of research to now be able to launch an additional initiative that is going to focus on applied science and technology that is going to help us in fact attack red tide and decrease the impact that their harmful algal blooms have on our ecosystem, our quality of life and our economy,” Mote President and CEO Michael Crosby said. expand testing and researching of red tide.

The state will direct $2,178,000 to Mote to test technologies, such as Mote’s ozone treatment system and clay field testing, to mitigate the effects of red tide, a release from the governor’s office said. expand testing and researching of red tide.

How your lawn's fertilizers can contribute to the red tide; counties combat their use

ORLANDO - Water. It is everywhere in Florida, from our beaches to our lakes and canals. The red tide has not only affected our beaches, the ecosystem and tourism, but harmful algae blooms have also affected other bodies of water, such as inland lakes and canals closer to our homes.

For months, we have seen how some canals have turned red and how some even filled with green slime-like algae. Although algae blooms can occur naturally, nutrient runoff is one of Florida’s biggest problems contributing to the harmful blooms.

FGCU researchers install air quality pump to test blue-green algae toxins

CAPE CORAL - Florida Gulf Coast University researchers are tired of waiting on other groups to test how blue-green algae affects our air quality.

They took matters into their own hands and created an air quality pump.

The air pump has different layers of filters, similar to your respiratory system.

“We are looking at microsysten. So that’s a toxin produced by mycrosystis which is the blue-green algae that’s been a big concern this summer here in the Cape,” said Dr. Mike Parsons, Professor of Marine Science Florida Gulf Coast University.

Parsons is also the director of the Coastal Watershed Institute, and he says the residents along the canals are asking if breathing the air near blue-green algae is healthy.

Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

When meteorologists downgraded Hurricane Florence from a powerful Category 4 storm to a Category 2 and then a Category 1, Wayne Mills figured he could stick it out.

He regrets it. The Neuse River, normally 150 feet away, lapped near his door in New Bern, North Carolina, on Sunday even as the storm had "weakened" further.

People like Mills can be lulled into thinking a hurricane is less dangerous when the rating of a storm is reduced. But those ratings are based on wind strength, not rainfall or storm surge—and water is responsible for 90 percent of storm deaths .

Several meteorologists and disaster experts said something needs to change with the 47-year-old Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to reflect the real risks in hurricanes. They point to Florence, last year's Hurricane Harvey, 2012's Sandy and 2008's Ike as storms where the official Saffir-Simpson category didn't quite convey the danger because of its emphasis on wind.

"The concept of saying 'downgraded' or 'weakened should be forever banished," said University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd. "With Florence, I felt it was more dangerous after it was lowered to Category 2."

It was a lowered category that helped convince Famous Roberts, a corrections officer from Trenton, to stay behind. "Like a lot of people (we) didn't think it was actually going to be as bad," he said. "With the category drop ... that's another factor why we did stay."